I’m on campus a lot. With classes and all the meetings that come along with clubs and responsibilities, I’ve got my fair share of walking to do. My legs are lucky as our campus is fairly small, but every day I can’t help but notice that there are so many who walk with their heads down. With the eyes of my peers cast away from others, basic human connection is easily averted. This troubles me.
Entering my senior year of college, I was still dubious about my future and my education thus far. What I was certain that I knew was that I’d gained some street smarts. My staunchly suburban middle-class upbringing had not accounted for so many different things. Three years in a small Appalachian town had not only granted me more common sense but also helped me to understand what makes people different and what makes people alike. I made decisions about myself: about the manner I wanted to conduct myself, about the things I wanted to say, learn, and do, and how I could develop character. I walk to class with my chin up. I like to look ahead as I walk, relaxed, and poised for the challenge I’m on my way to. I’m proud of myself for this. I’m proud of myself for making the decision to be future-bound, even if I don’t always feel that I’m ready. I can’t call out people on the sidewalk—I’m not aiming to embarass anyone! "Empower" just doesn’t feel like the correct word either, though.
The message of our most fundamental government documents is echoed so often in popular media that I know my peers, my fellow American citizens, have heard it: equality. It seems almost menacing to say that I want to equalize those around me, but I can’t come to any other fair conclusion. I want everyone to walk through campus with their eyes cast forward. I want them to feel prepared and content with meeting another's gaze when passing. Sometimes I grow frustrated that more people can’t adhere to a standard I find so basic, but I know I must strike balance in what I can reasonably expect from others. I know also that I want to be liked. I want to be loved and appreciated and missed when I’m not around. What follows logically here is that I’ve got to be someone worth liking and loving and missing. Usually, this comes pretty naturally. Throughout the course of my life, I’ve developed my personality, both consciously and not, and I’ve learned to manage my emotions. I expect this progressive psychology to be a part of everybody. I believe that on whatever level, every person wants to be loved and appreciated. Because of this, I expect everybody to size up their own self-worth. Again, I worry that I’m being harsh, but I hope that everyone has tried to consider where their place is, what their place is. That’s not about class structures or social constructs but more about knowing what’s best for you. What’s your personality type? If you’re in college, your major? Your job? What buzzwords come to mind for each of these matters? Do they sound like you?
I expect others to know what makes them unique but also what could type them as a part of the masses. I hope from others that they’ll be candid and grounded, but those are states that may take practice and a little learnt wisdom. So, yes, I expect others to be present and to care about something. Anything. I know it, I know that they do, and I hope that others can muster their sense of self enough to allow themselves to take pride in what they believe they should.
When it comes to my Ask Big Questions conversations, I expect the parameters I’ve detailed above to still adhere. The conversations I’ve had thus far have been enriching, but not without my probing. I hold different standards to different groups and different questions, but above all, I expect honesty. I hosted a conversation with Radford’s new ROTC cadets centered around the question, “For whom are we responsible?” With them, I expected thoughtful conversation. I expected answers that reflected their life choices and sense of honor and duty. I expect so much from others just as I expect so much from myself because I yearn for a higher standard of equal living.
Rebecca Pinsky is a Communication Studies major at Radford University (class of 2015) and an Ask Big Questions fellow.